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Bramble Rose

An Eccentric Trespasser [Closed]

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The lowest sub-basements of the castle were ancient, dating back for thousands of years. Some areas of the dark, stone-lined corridors were wet, slimy, full of all the growing things that shun the light - other parts were dry, dusty, with stale air and way too many spider webs. Either way, most of them were unexplored in the last few centuries, only the few scant corridors that the guards still patrolled kept clear.

Sometimes, the patrol was assigned as a punishment - but normally the assignment of lower-level patrol was simply doled out fairly, everyone taking their turn. At least, this was the theory. In reality, the nightly barracks card games had the lower-level patrol as one of the most hotly contested stakes, winners getting to pawn the miserable task off onto the losers.

So today, the two guards wandering the halls were not happy about it. The two unicorns had white coats and blue manes, and their cutie marks were hidden by their ceremonial armor.

"I can't believe it. I would have sworn he would have a six!" one was complaining. "I can't believe I'm stuck down here again! I've had this job four times over the past two weeks!"

The other pony sighed softly. He was all for just enduring this stoically, perhaps discussing the latest hoofball game, but the first pony just wouldn't stop going on about how unfair it all was.

"And you know it's not good for our health!" the first pony went on. "All this stale air and mold... lots of ponies who take this assignment are getting sick! You know Silver Standard? He had this patrol yesterday, and he never showed up for work this morning!"

The other pony sighed again, plodding along like they always did, blocking out the noise as the other pony kept going on, and on, and on, and on. He glanced down a side hallway without thinking about it, kept walking, then paused, one hoof lifted. "Wait," he said. "Was that a light back there?"

"And then she said, Oatmeal, are you crazy? ... What? Light? Where?" The first guard backtracked and looked. "Hey, it is!"

The two guards trotted down the hall to investigate, where a soft, flickering light was shifting from blue, to green, to pink, and so on. They peered around the corner, the glow of the light coloring their white coats.

"Well," said the second pony, "I've never seen the like. What on earth is that?"

"Dunno... give it a prod!" said the first.

The second unicorn sighed, and his horn glowed as he telekinetically prodded the strange thing. Both the guards' eyes widened... "Wh... what?" asked the first.

"Quick, hold them back!" cried the second. Both unicorns' horns glowed, as they tried to keep back the skittering, whisper-quiet sound of hundreds of creatures. Blasts of magic shot forward to splash into the oncoming glow to no apparent help.

There was a terrible, horrible pair of screams.

There was a terrible, horrible silence.

ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo ooooo

The rule of Princess Celestia was a good and benevolant rule, and graced with peace and harmony. Crime was down, happiness was up, and the law was applied rather casually, because few ponies really meant any harm. Even as such, though, there was a few things you just didn't do in Equestria. Breaking into the palace was probably one of them.

Not that Doctor Whooves really considered this fact all that much, as he closed the no-longer-quite-so-locked rear entrance to the gardens behind him and peered around. Rather, he was just too fascinated with his search at hoof. he trotted swiftly and uninterestedly through the gorgeous garden, the most beautiful in all of Equestria, with barely a second glance. The tan earth pony with the dark brown, slicked back mane and the hourglass cutiemark only stopped once to look up at a statue of some past notable who had been of service to the kingdom. "Nose is too big," he mused, then kept on towards the palace.

He slipped in through the kitchens, his head down, peering at grates, and at drains, as if they were far more interesting than any of the glamor and glitz surrounding him. He wandered out into the hallway, following along, peering down at the floor with intense interest. He paused at a grate in a corner, and let out a satisfied *ahhhhh* He leaned down to it, and examined a cobweb at one corner of the grate. "And what are you?" he asked himself thoughtfully.

The brown pony stuck out his tongue and gave the web a little lick, then lifted his head, clucking his tongue in his mouth as he tasted it. "Oh, yes, yes. There you are. Found you!"

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Irontooth, the Doctor's latest companion, followed him through the courtyard. She'd never seen so many plants in one place in her life; even groundside in Talonopolis, the ground was too choked from pollution to support much vegetation. It was a new experience, to be sure. New experiences were the whole reason she joined up with the Doctor in the first place. Since her discharge, she had nowhere else to go. Her old lifestyle had been shot to pieces in the wake of the accident - her ticking clockwork arm a constant reminder that she would never again to toe-to-toe with a sky-pirate. Hopefully the Doctor's adventures would be just as exciting.

"So, why are we here again?" Irontooth asked. "I mean, I'm all for sticking it to Celestia, but shouldn't we at least have a reason?" She just sort of stared as the Doctor tasted a bit of cobweb. "Did you just... EAT a spiderweb?"

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After a progression of time, there was the sound of hooves coming up behind the pair of intruders, including a few indignant and perhaps irritatedly suprised snorts as two plated pegasi guards stared at the two with narrowed eyes. The personal bodyguard's of the glorious sun princess, which meant she probably wasn't far away and if you were to guess that. You'd be right.

The two guards stared the pair down as the long legged lady followed up behind the pair and blinked in suprise at the two trespassers, not showing any anger despite her guard's irritation that a pair could so easily slip past their defenses. But Celestia simply pondered the pair for a moment or two.

"I knew the castle garden was beautiful, but I didn't realise people would so happily break into my home to see it."

Taking a few steps closer to the griffin and the pony, her guard's following suit beside the alicorn lady as her mane and tail flickered weakly in the breezeless air.

"Perhaps an explanation is in order?"

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Doctor Whooves leaped up and spun around, the motion seeming to leave him just on the edge of falling over, but not quite. He peered at the three ponies staring at them with an expression of mingled excitement and surprise. "And of course!" he cried, "Of course you'd want an explanation! Reasonable thing to want, an explanation!" He pointed a hoof upwards as he emphasized the reasonableness of the request. He turned his head and said, in a lower, very casual way, to Irontooth, "Wouldn't you want an explanation?"

He trotted up towards the princess, cheerfully declaring, "And of course, we'd be willing to give you an explanation!" The two guards cut him off, extending their wings with an almost metallic sound to cross before him. Unfazed, Doctor Whooves stared one of the guards in the face, from only inches away, his head lifting up, down, left and right, peering at the guard from small difference in angle. "Oh, yes, an explanation, that we can give! I don't suppose you'd be convinced if I told you I was a Castle Inspector and showed you a slip of paper to prove it? No, no, of course not, because that would not be a reasonable explanation! No, I have an explanation, and what an explanation it is! An explanation so wonderful you'd wonder why I didn't give it already instead of babbling on like somepony trying to think of an explanation!"

He paused, furrowed his brow as he tilted his head to the side. "Blimey, but these blokes are serious. No expression at all. Do they train that? How do you train that? Stand there for three hours a day as ponies make faces at them? I tell you, very impressive. Job well done!"

"But yes, an explanation! Because otherwise you'd have to throw us in the dungeon,and you wouldn't want to have to do that because the dungeon hasn't been used in centuries and it's all dark and dank and deteriorated and you'd have to send someone in to tidy up a bit, clear out the mold, build new doors, make sure it's not all rusted out, and that'd just be faaaaarrr too much work, wouldn't it? We wouldn't want to put them through that sort of trouble, would we?" he nodded to Irontooth as the words just kept spilling excitedly out of his mouth, filling the hallway with a nonstop flood of near-nonsense. "It'd just be terrible, especially with what I've been hearing lately from the guards... guards going sick, not showing up for work, not being seen at home, wellllll, with a ponypower shortage, why make more work for the poor blokes?"

"I'll tell you what we found, though, and that'd be the truth - missing food! Food gone missing! Ponies foodless! Well, not exactly foodless, it was only a little of their food, so just food-light. But one wonders, who took it? And why all over the city, all of a sudden? One might think foals, but why would foals mick healthy food and leave the sweets? One might think a sire feeding his foals, but so much food? And he didn't even nick a little of the sweets for a treat? But really what caught my attention was the cobwebs, ah, what a mess, even in neat and tidy stores, bam! Cobwebs. Who leaves cobwebs? well, I tell you, that intrigued me, so I followed the cobwebs, and where do you think that led me? That's RIGHT!"

He pointed his hoof upwards again, emphasizing as he cried, "NOT to the palace! No, it led me to drainage pipes! Great big pipes, with greaaaaat biiiiig grates keeping folks out!" His mouth stretched out, drawling the words as if to emphasize that the pipes and the grates were just too big to fit into the words he was using. "And you when I see a greaaaat biiiiig grate keeping me from seeing what's on the other side, well, I just GOTTA find out what's over there! And these pipes led *into* the palace, so naturally I just slipped in!"

He spun around suddenly and was face-to-face with Ironhoof. "Which brings me back to YOUR question, of course, because I did not eat a spiderweb, why would I? Silly thing to do, of course, I wouldn't even lick a spider web, disgusting. And you know why that's wrong, and I did no such thing? Because it's a very good question, a very good question indeed, and I will tell you WHY I did not lick a spiderweb!"

He paused dramatically, taking a deep breath, and then let out a triumphant, "BeCAUUUUUUSE! That would imply a spider made it!"

He spun around again, walking down the hall away from Princess Celestia and the guards, confident in the absolute reason and logic of his argument. "Come along, Iron!" he cried merrily.

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"Uh... okay." said Irontooth, still not quite used to the Doctor's antics. She followed him, muttering to him under her breath, "Are you sure it's a good idea to turn our backs to Celestia and her guards like this?" She'd heard all sorts of rumors back in Talonopolis about Celestia's kingdom... the only thing they all seemed to agree on was that Celestia was a tyrant. Then again, that could just be propaganda put out by the ruling Griffon families, but she didn't want to take any chances. She kept careful watch on the Princess and her entourage as she followed the Doctor.

Speaking up again, she asked, "So, if that wasn't a spiderweb, then what kind of web was it?"

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Princess Luna was walking through the castle on her way to the royal gardens. She had a book floating in front of her face, which she was utterly engrossed in. She didn't have to worry about running into anypony in the castle. The guards made their presence known or simply moved out of the way.

Luna had noticed that Celestia kept a pair of guards with her at all times, but Luna did not think that was necessary for herself. She never left the castle except to go to the garden, which was walled in anyway. Not all the guards seemed to fond of her, though, probably due to her close relation with Nightmare Moon. So it was better for all if Luna went without an escort.

She was paying particular attention to a certain paragraph when she fell over a brown Earth pony in her path. She stumbled back, dropping the book onto the Griffin that stood next to him.

She shook her head, snapping herself back to reality and out of the world in her book. She gasped, covering her mouth with both hooves.

"Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry! Are you alright?"

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Watching on with a faint blink, the Princess had to arch a brow in slight confusion and watching as her guard's simply grew in their irritation as the pair turned their back on Celestia and their was a snort that ran through them. About to approach them, they were cut off as the Princess stepped forward and gently dismissed them to staying atleast a few feet behind her.

A few delicate hoof steps and she glanced over the pair with a curious crease in her brow, she thought she understood everything what was told to her, but it didn't sound that good to her. Lowering her head slightly she looked to the brown pony and smiled patiently.

"Perhaps you could expand on what you've told us, as your griffin friend said," Nodding softly towards Irontooth she offered a polite smile and glanced back towards the brown stallion.

"If they're not spider webs, then what could they possibly-"

The collision caught her offguard, blinking as her sister tripped herself over the intruder and she moved over with a sense of urgency. Tentatively nuzzling her sister's cheek in concern as she looked over the dark blue filly.

"Luna, dear, are you alright?"

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Doctor Whooves righted himself and shook his head. "Well, there was a perfectly good exit ruined," he said distantly. He casually righted the book on Irontooth's back with one hoof, and flipped through the pages curiously. He nodded as he handed the book back to Princess Luna. "Interesting ethical code," he mused to himself.

Then he turned around to look at Irontooth. "And what, you ask? There are many things, from the early days before Equestria was civilized. Things locked away for ages... some things cute and adorable... some things dangerous..." He looked Luna in the eyes. "And some things very, very both..." he whispered to her.

He turned around to look at Celestia again. "With the stars aligning recently, ancient cages all across Equestria sprung open, darkness freed from centuries of imprisonment... who *knows* what could be lurking under your castle?"

Then he perked up. "I certainly don't! That's what makes it so fun!"

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The princess blinked slightly at the brown stallion, mind flickering over the thought. Cages opening with the stars alligning? Glancing up to the sky briefly she let out a small, thoughtful 'hmm..' and then looked back to the Doctor with a faint, growing curiousity.

He could've been lieing easily, infact the body language of her guards suggested he could be and the fact he'd just accidentally tripped up the princess Luna didn't seem to calm the armored stallions any further. And they snorted indignantly to the other's words.

Celestia however had always wanted to give her subject's the benefit of the doubt and as she briefly glanced over Luna worriedly to make sure she was alright, she approached a step or two closer.

"I'm intrigued and also worried by what you have to say, pray, continue."

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Luna nodded. "Yes, I am unharmed." She looked up and down at the Griffin, taking in her strange metallic leg and how curious it was. She quickly glanced over the brown pony, subconsciously catching a glimpse at his hourglass Cutie Mark. Luna had not seen a Griffin since her return; they were so rare in this part of Equestria. Not to mention, they rarely came to Canterlot Castle, but, the two could have had some business to discuss with Princess Celestia.

"But who, pray tell, are our two guests?" she noticed that the guards seemed to regard them with a slight hostility, as if they were irritated, but the Griffin and Earth pony did not appear to be dangerous...

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The tan pony looked from Celestia to Luna, then looked one of the guards in the eyes. "Oh, of course! I'm Doctor Whooves! And this is my companion, Irontooth! I'm a simple archeologist, a real interest in history. So I travel around finding ... interesting things." He grinned to Celestia, an eager grin on his face, a wild light in his eyes. "And I don't *know* any more. That's why I came in through a ... conveniently open back door. So I could find out what they are. And besides, there were some crying foals who were worried about their sires."

He grinned. "so, anyone who's coming for an adventure... we need to find the dankest, darkest, spookiest corner of the under-castle." He glanced at Celestia. "The sort of place you haven't seen used since you were a foal."

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Doctor Whooves?

Blinking in a perplexed manner at the pony, the Princess had to watch him closely for a moment or two, something deffinately sparked in her mind with that name, whether it was a good or bad memory however she was uncertain. But still the mare remained vigilant to give the pony the benefit of the doubt.

Continuing to listen on she briefly offered a smile to her little sister with a soft nod, hair wafting slighly on the soft breeze as she commented absently.

"Well, it appears we have an old friend if he knows my wanderings as a foal..."

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Doctor Whooves and Irontooth? Luna had never heard of those two before. But, there were many ponies in Equestria, many that Luna still did not know. Luna looked a bit concerned when Doctor Whooves turned to Celestia, seeming to have an almost crazy gleam in his eyes.

"Conveniently open back door"? This was all starting to sound like some rather questionable activity... Even Celestia seemed a bit confused by their presence. That would explain why the guards looked so unhappy, if these two were trespassers. Apparently not dangerous trespassers, as Celestia was keeping her calm and had apparently called off the guards.

Wait, crying foals? What was he on about now? Seemed like he'd completely changed the subject. His story seemed rather muddled, and becoming more so.

As he mentioned the deep parts of the castle, Luna suppressed a shudder... Remembering something from long long ago that took place in a deep dark part in the castle. Adventure indeed. It was dangerous down there... dangerous things happened down there. It wasn't the sort of place one went to for a simple "adventure." Celestia smiled at Luna, almost as if she was reading her thoughts, and remembering too, and reassuring her that things were now alright.

She'd heard his last comment, but thought that it was just something off hoof. That is, until Celestia spoke. She'd been down there? And as a FOAL? Luna had, on a couple of occasions... but she was master of the night and darkness. She wasn't afraid of dark dungeons and old dusty rooms. There was nothing down there, nothing at all. But she had always gone alone. It wasn't a place that Luna was supposed to be. One, because she had been told it was dangerous, and two, there was always more to be studied and learned, she had been taught. But, when she could manage to skip out on her duties, the far reaches of the castle were her refuges. Whether below the castle or simply in some of the spare rooms... Anywhere lonely and maybe a bit dark would do.

But... he was an old friend? Certainly not... She and Celestia were over a thousand years old. Nopony lived that long. Celestia must have simply misinterpreted his light comment. There was no way he had been around for so long. He was just a regular Earth pony. Right?

"This is all a bit muddling to me. I really can't follow exactly what you're talking about. First you say you're interested in History, then you seem to admit that you sneaked into the castle, then something about some distressed foals...And now you speak of adventure?"

She turned to Celestia. "How can you have known this pony since you were young? I surely do not remember him, and, at any rate, you know, sister, how old we are. It is not possible for a mere pony to live as long as us. Correct?"

Then, turning back to Doctor Whooves, "What, pray tell, exactly is your business in Canterlot Castle?"

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Doctor Whooves let out a wide-eyed grin, his mouth looking almost too big for his face. "Oh, no. I'm not nearly that old. That'd be ridiculous! No, no. I'm just saying... we're talking about stuff that's been locked away for centuries... they didn't just pop out of nowhere. So we need to find someplace that might have been lying deserted for over a thousand years..."

He laughed again, and patted Luna on the shoulder. "Me, over a thousand years old ... next you're going to tell me I came in through your window to babysit you while you were a foal, watching over you as you were in your jammies and had put your hair up while danced to your Mulezart Albums, or helping you with your homework while you were doodling hearts around little Autumnus' name on your school books ... "

"As for what I'm doing here, it's quite simple. I'm doing what I always do. I'm being clever! I think the more important question is, what are we still doing up here, instead of heading down below? Come on, now, lead the way!"

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That was...akward. Blinking her large and slightly suprised eyes at the 'doctor' once more she looked to her sister whilst her mind went on thinking. Could he have been....no.

He'd have passed on by now, surely. There was simply no way in....mind you...

As he went on about how they still remained uptop, the Princess felt compelled with her gut feeling to trust the pony and glanced to the two guards still looking rather fierce with both their beloved princesses in their stead and a strange pony here, a simply nod however eased them both and Celestia delicately nudged her sister's cheek in a soft, affectionate gesture as she moved to a door leading into the castle. If the colt was correct, something would be going terribly wrong...and besides...there was an odd feeling of familiarity to the young stallion.

Perhaps how in detail he went on about her younger sister, or aknowledging she indeed wandered into the bowels of the castle long ago...she never had ventured there in a long, long time since her livelihood.

And to this day, something made her wary of going down still.

But why?

Looking to their guest, she offered a small smile and a nod for him to follow and for Luna to follow, she wanted to keep an eye on her sister incase anything was found...and it was dangerous. That protective instinct running very fiercely through her.

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Luna fought the urge to flinch away as the brown pony's hoof came in contact with her shoulder. She didn't feel very comfortable at all with this strange pony in such a close proximity. Perhaps it was a simple act of being...friendly, but it just didn't sit well. And now he was talking of sneaking into her bedroom as a child? What a creeper, a pervert perhaps, even. What was his problem?

Oh, so he thought he was being clever, did he? He was actually being rather cheeky, dodging around questions like some little 'lie dance'.

Still slightly confused and a bit skeptical, Luna was about to protest when Celestia turned and led the way. But she stopped herself, knowing that it was futile to try and talk any sense with this "Doctor Whooves". But if Celestia trusted him...well, perhaps there was something she knew that she was not telling Luna. That bothered her. If something was wrong, why shouldn't she know too? And why did she have to come as well?

The deepest parts of the castle no longer brought Luna any lonely comfort as they once had. Something long ago had happened...the beginning and ending of it all...and Luna had not soon forgotten.

But she followed, anyway, wary and nervous, and keeping especially close to Celestia's side. She could feel her legs becoming wobbly and her throat tightening at the thought of venturing downward. Down old winding steps of old stone, into dusty realms that had never seen the light of day. At one time it had all been fascinating, but now, it just filled Luna with dread.

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As the light of day disappeared behind them, and they went further into the depths, Doctor Whooves' excitement grew. He was used to finding ancient tombs, chambers, and sunken cities in remote, out-of-the way places. Ancient unicorn libraries, or the secret storehouses of the royal family of Ancient Equestria. But never had he imagined he would be delving down into the chambers deep under the Royal Castle itself!

He followed them down, past the guard station, to where year after year of guard patrols had kept a single clear path through millenia of dust, cobwebs, and gunk. He lifted his nose and gave a sniff, smelling the stagnant air, the musty dampness... "Ahhh... now *this* is more like it!" he exclaimed excitedly! "Oh, yes. They'll be down here for sure... smell that? That's not a pony smell. That's a ... kinda ... ooo, what is that? You ever smell a ... oh, what is that ... you ever smell an old skunkflower under the hot sun in the middle of a drought just after the rain started falling? Except snow instead of sun. And no rain. Just a campfire. but it was raining yesterday, then it froze. Actually, it's not like that. Forget the skunkflower! This is totally different!"

Doctor Whooves was glancing back over his shoulder, seeing Luna and Celestia silhouetted in the faint light of the stairwell they were leaving. Then he looked forward into the dead blackness - wow, he couldn't even tell the difference between the corridor and the stone wa-BAM!

He stumbled backwards, his head spinning. Oh, now he could see something! Look at the lovely stars!

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Keeping an especially close eye on her sister as they wandered the dark hallways, Celestia couldn't help but feel a small chill work its way up and down her spine at the recurring memory of childhood fears that slowly pinched and scratched at the back of her brain. There were reasons she didn't like coming down here. And though she couldn't place it right now, that strong sense of self preservation beckoned, no, pleaded her to turn back...but she was curious. And always had been curious.

She had to be strong too. She could see the wobble in her sister's step and encouragingly nosed the blue filly's cheek with a soft, reassuring smile, hair fluttering against the dusty walls surrounding them as they delved deeper and deeper still.

What was the brown pony's motivation? Had she just allowed some...mad creature into her home?

Would she regret her actions? That doubt settled evenly in her chest before she blinked and spluttered at a stray cobweb that landed on her face. Shaking herself free of it before either of the guard's could worry themself silly over the small thing.

Then came the thud up ahead, arching a brow she made her further into the inky blackness and found the brown colt soon enough. Horn illuminating the way as she found him and watched him spin slightly...he must've ran straight into the opposing wall.

"Are you alright....?"

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Luna didn't like the feel of this part of the castle at all. What had once been a place of refuge was now a place of regret and bad memories. Luna's leg's stiffened at each step, pleading with her to stay out of this place. She stayed close to Celestia, inside the circle of light cast by her horn. The eerie shadows danced against the wall, traces of them sneaking by like hands and threatening to pull her away into the cold darkness. Their hoofsteps were the only noise, the normally soft clip-clopping made louder by the stone and the extreme quiet. Outside of the light, there was only blackness, beyond and behind, it surrounded them.

Luna nearly jumped at Celestia's touch, distracted as she was by the false movements around her. She wanted to smile, to show that she was grateful...but the look in her eyes as they met Celestia's was one of worry. The brown pony had disappeared into the darkness, and Luna drew in a sharp breath. She wasn't really concerned for his safety, but he seemed to know what he was doing and where he was goingâ€â€Âand if they lost him, they themselves might become lost. She paused as she heard the 'thump' up ahead. Then seeing Celestia rush forward, Luna did as well, not wanting to be caught in the darkness.

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Doctor Whooves spun around and looked up at the two princesses with a slightly dazed grin. "Oh, yes. Perfectly all right!" He turned around, again, to peer at the wall. "I just don't remember a waaaalllll being there," he said suspiciously. He turned around and looked at the stairs.. then turned to look at the wall. Held up both his front hooves before his face, peering between them, then tilted his head slowly sideways. "Oh! Nevermind! There it is! Just got turned around a bit!" He smiled up to Celestia and Luna, then looked around at the surrounding murk and dirt.

"Well, this is certainly exciting!" he said energetically, seeming to be more and more delighted, the creepier it got. He peered closely at a hanging cobweb, gave it a sniff, then gave it a lick. He smacked his lips, and rubbed his front hooves over his tongue. "Blech. Yup, we're on the right track! Getting stronger now!"

He peered closely at the floor, in the light of Celestia's horn, and then proceeded to follow the sole worn, almost-clean path through the dusty surroundings, the smooth groove worn into the stone floor from hundreds of years worth of halfhearted guard patrols. "This way, then!"

Doctor Whooves hummed happily, and out-of-tune, as he proceeded on down the twisting, winding halls. "I gotta say," he said enthusiastically, "I've had a lot of ponies follow after me in my adventures, but this is the first time I've had *two* princesses as my companions! It's quite a treat for me!" His tone was light, offhand - just showing an enjoyment of the moment, regardless of what the future might hold.

Every so often, the brown earth pony paused at some turn-off and examined this or that turn-off... sniff the air... listen carefully, a hoof raised for quiet... then shake his head, and move on. Further down, further in, the strange procession continued.

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Blinking at poor Luna's reaction to her touch, her smile turned appologetic and once she reached the good doctor...as stumbled and as he was and watching over the brown pony, her fears of the fact she may have brought in some completely buck-wild and downright crazy pony into her home made her...very...very nervous.

But it never came to the surface. Oh no. She was very good and keeping her emotions level.

It was to make sure that when everything turned to manure around her, she was atleast calm in the hopes that it atleast instilled some calm into the ponies around her aswell...but right now...she was deeply worried.

As the doctor took off again, she glanced at Luna, making sure she was alright and followed after the brown male at a steady pace. The guards following suit. Like loyal dogs kept to their diligent vigil.

Maybe it was the dank air in the depths of this place, or the fact it was just so dark and disorientating...but something felt...very off. The princess' footing began to falter and she paused at the end of one hallway.

This felt so...familiar...in a horrible, horrible way.

'M'lady? One of the guard inquired.

A small pause and she shook her head.

"Something tells me we're not in for a pleasent surprise down here...let's go make sure our guest doesn't get himself eaten." Came her reply. "Luna, I want you to stick close to me."

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As they continued on, Luna glanced up at her sister. She was surprised to see that Celestia did not look as worried as she herself felt. In fact, there seemed to be little emotion crossing her sister's face. Perhaps a hint of determination, but other than that...there was nothing. Just...nothing.

Luna knew that voicing her fears wouldn't do anypony any good. Celestia was bent on following this insane Stallion, whatever her reasoning might be. The guardponies continued along with them, seeming to echo Celestia's emotionless state. Luna wished that she could project that bravery herself.

Then Celestia stopped, and with a stiff jerk Luna didn't as well, careful not to step out of the light. She looked up at Celestia to see what was the matter, and saw her eyes travel far away, but only for a moment before she seemed to shake the feeling off.

Luna moved the tiniest bit closer at her sister's request, her head brushing against Celestia's side. "Wh-What?! Eaten?!" she exclaimed, as she registered what else her sister had just said. "But there's nothing actually down here, right? It's been abandoned down here for yearsâ€â€Âcenturies even!" she paused, listening as her voice gave an eerie echo in the seemingly empty corridor.

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Doctor Whooves knew he came off as a bit ... different. He had no illusions about that. But he didn't care - when dealing with the strange and unusual, a few oddities lent an air of expertise to a personality - who better to deal with the bizarre than someone who's just a bit bizarre, himself?

Never, though, had he found himself so proven correct as now. He'd gotten caught breaking into the palace... and now the princesses were following along after him, doing as he said?! This was definitely a high point in his long and magnificent list of adventures.

Now all he had to make sure to do was follow through. He was sure something was down here, whatever it was, but if they didn't find it... Well, he'd certainly come out looking more like a crazy person than an expert. No sense worrying about that, though...

So many empty doorways. Or closed ones. Imagine... there were rooms down here that nopony had gone in for hundreds of years... perhaps even thousands of years! Imagine what ancient devices, ancient magics, ancient books or scrolls or friezes or art, might be found down here, by an intrepid historian. The flow of time, in all its glory. Surely, travelling down here was like time-travelling, in its way, entering a world from ages past. He could tell, from glances out of the corner of his eyes, that the princesses were nervous. But how could they be nervous? They were the second and third most powerful forces in the kingdom! The first, of course, being one he watched over carefully, though it was laying unused and forgotten, tucked away in the bottom drawer, second from the left, in a little library in a tiny little town out in the countryside.

Ah, well. Sometimes he didn't understand other ponies.

What was to be scared of down here? It was dark, but what was darkness? It was old and musty, with cobwebs all over, but what were a few spiders? Well, there were the disappearing guards, he hadn't made them up. He supposed there was likely *something* dangerous down here... but that's why they were here!

What fearsome thing? What great monster, what terrifying creature awaited? Maybe it had tentacles... maybe it had big crab-claws on tentacles! Maybe it was on fire! Maybe it breathed acid and could go right through stone walls! Maybe it slowed time around it so you moved as if embedded in molasses!

Movement attracted his eye, while he was getting himself more and more excited with his imaginings. "Hold on!" he said cheerfully, and pulled out a little miniature lantern from his bag. He set it on the floor briefly, lit it with a brief flash from his flintstone, then picked it up in his teeth and progressed forward, with the flame licking up off to the side of his face. "Ah, there you are!" he said around the handle.

There, in the middle of a side-corridor, where a few hoof-prints marred centuries of dust and murk, stood a little creature. Nothing more than an adorable little bit of blue fluff, with great big adorable eyes. It let out a soft little chirrring noise, a sweet trill of greeting, as Doctor Whooves approached it. "Well, well, well. Aren't you adorable?"

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Once they had found the good doctor, or atleast had caught up with him, Celestia couldn't exactly see what he was fawning over so curiously and when she did. Something struck a chord in her chest.

Peering at the little creature, she tilted her head. It reminded her on the tiny creatures that flitted around Ponyville...and ransacked Fillydelphia when she had gone to investigate it. They were harmless...in the long run...until they ran out of food.

But this didn't feel exactly right.

Squinting, she stretched out a wing infront of Luna to make sure she stayed there before approaching behind the brown pony, as she did and the glow of her horn drew nearer. The tiny, soft thing chirped and chittered hungrily, almost instantly drawing the princess back warily.

She was being silly. It was just hungry. Probably hadn't been fed in so long.

But this tiny creature put the solar princess at a great distress as she eye'd over its small, fuzzy form and shook her head gently.

"Luna, don't go near it." She warned under her breath.

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Luna watched as the brown Earth pony pulled the lantern from his sack. That would've been helpful earlier! she thought to herself. But there wasn't time to remain anger. He'd found something. Luna stepped forward, a little less cautious now that there was more light. They'd also apparently found the thing Doctor Whooves had been looking for. At least they'd be able to go back soon.

But as Luna took another step, the way was suddenly barred by white wing. Luna looked up curiously at Celestia, and her fears returned now that her sister was showing concern. Even Celestia, so much more powerful than she, seemed tentative to approach it. And then, with her warning, Luna knew that something was definitely amiss. But what?

Surely, it was a bit odd to find such a cute creature in this dark and forsaken part of the castle... Well, actually, that was pretty weird. What was it anyway? Was there something the other two ponies knew about it that she didn't? At any rate, if Celestia was being cautious, something wasn't right.

'O-Okay.' she replied, uncertain.

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